Ming Black/Red Lacquered Marble Top Chest


Mid 17th C, Shanxi, original lacquer and hardware, doors with “Hundred Antiquities” painting, “taohuan” panels at base; marble slab top
37½” h. 34” w. 21” d

This chest survived with original metalwork, which consists of triple lock-plates on the pair of door panels in front, and door hinge plates with big nail-heads that add decorative interest to the chest.  The door panels have the popular “Hundred Antiquities” painting favored by the scholar-official class.  The painting originally would have vivid colors and might be gilded but now the colors have faded with age, showing only black outlines.  The main body sits on a two-tiers base, with each tier divided by a black sharply ridged molding.  The first tier consists of a recessed waist divided into four red “taohuan” panels with lobed ends, each separated by a strut. This is a very traditional design.  Below the waist section, the base panel has a black scrolling pattern above a recessed red ground.

The top of this piece originally has a very thick coat of black lacquer, which has thinned with age, as heavily lacquered pieces often do.  A thick marble slab is put there now to protect the thinned lacquered panel so any heavy item can be safely placed on the top without further damaging the original coating. This chest survived with beautiful original metalwork which adds value to the piece as during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, metalworks were commonly confiscated to get melted down for military and industrial use.